MARYLAND – For many high school seniors, this is the time of year "senioritis" tends to set in. However, some changes coming to Maryland schools next fall could prevent next spring's senior slump.
"We've always tried to push our seniors into taking rigorous classes their senior year to better prepare them for what's ahead of them," says Andrew Todd, supervisor of mathematics for Wicomico County public schools.
When it comes to math, that will now be a requirement. Currently, students only need three credits of math to graduate, which allows some students to opt not to take a math their senior year. Starting in the fall of 2014, ninth graders must take four years of math. It will also be the first year of a policy passed back in 2009, that requires twelfth grade math for students seeking admission to Maryland public universities.
According to data from the Maryland Higher Education Commission, about 55 percent of Maryland's 31,204 high school graduates that went to a state public university needed to take catch-up courses once they got to college. It's reportedly not just a problem for those who decide to take a break their senior year.
"A lot of these kids are really bright but they finished their math requirements early," says Dr. Karen Olmstead, dean of the Henson School of Science and Technology at Salisbury University. "They hit the university and they haven't seen math for a year or two and they're really challenged, even though they had this great background up until that point."
"There is a learning gap there when they try to pick it back up," says Todd.
Nationwide, the STEM Education Coalition is pushing for awareness about the critical role of science, technology, engineering, and math in U.S. competitiveness and future economic prosperity. Local school districts across Maryland have made a big push for STEM education, and they say the changes are a big step regardless of what a student plans to do after college.
"Future job markets are such that people will change careers frequently, the idea of finding a career or work and doing the same thing for 30 years is kind of becoming an outdated notion," says Dr. John Quinn, Chief Academic Officer for Worcester County Public Schools. "People need to be able to change and reinvent themselves to stay current, having the ability in mathematics and being able to apply mathematics is a strong asset to anyone."
"It's a reality and students with strong math skills end up being successful professionally," says Dr. Olmstead. "We'd like to see more of them do that."
While some argue that certain occupations do not require math, Dr. Olmstead says it's necessary for much more than people realize.
"They're going have to make decisions in the voting booth, they're going to have to make decisions at the doctor's office, they're going to have to make decisions at the car dealership," says Dr. Olmstead. "They really need to have that quantitative literacy that you develop from math courses to be able to make those decisions."
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